Derby fall prey to the Eagles as they fail to take advantage of injury woes
SLACK defensive work stopped Derby Trailblazers from taking advantage of an injury-ravaged Bradford Eagles.
Derby trailed for most of the night as their three-match winning streak was ended by a Bradford side who arrived with only seven players for the VCARS Division One match.
Bradford had no acknowledged ball hander in their line-up but Lithuanian Mark Saladzius took on the role to such good effect that he managed 26 points, six assists and six rebounds.
Other than that, his teammate, Ricky Fetske, did the bulk of the damage.
He had averaged only 11 points a game in the season so far but, granted too much space, barely missed a shot in the first half on his way to 34 points.
Derby were still without Miguel Leite and had Tom Sherlock continuing to play through injury but a new injury meant they were also without Jeff Smith.
That left the Blazers with only Eric Milambo and Tom Brown to play in the post positions, giving Bradford a big size advantage.
Derby did not start too badly and were holding their own at nine-all after six minutes but the visitors then completed the first quarter with a 14-6 run which gave them a 23-15 advantage.
The second period was pretty much even, with Derby edging it 23-21.
They had at least taken good care of the ball in the half, with three turnovers to Bradford's eight, while young Benson Arogbo had emerged as a confident shooting threat, with 12 points in the half.
At 44-38 down, Derby should have been in the game but it took them another three minutes and 20 seconds to score, during which time the Dragons added nine, Fetske netting all but three of them.
The shots simply weren't dropping for the Trailblazers and the careful ball handling of the first half was suddenly non-existent.
Six turnovers in the third period alone allowed Bradford far too many opportunities to score.
And score they did, with astonishing ease at times, as they steadily extended an advantage which peaked at 22 points when Saladzius knocked down a three-pointer.
The closest Derby could get thereafter was when Simon Allaway converted a long- range shot to cut the gap to 81-66 with four and a half minutes left.
Once again, Bradford had proved they can play smart in the face of serious injury concerns, as they were forced to do for much of last season.
Derby still have a lot to learn in that respect, as their hopes of going into the Christmas break with a 50% win-loss record quickly evaporated.
Winning their final match of 2012, away to Leeds Carnegie on Saturday, now looks vitally important.
DERBY: Gayle 20, Rose 20, Allaway 14, Arogbo 12, Milambo 6, Daykin 5, Baker 2, McGaffin 2, Brown 0, Sherlock 0.
BRADFORD: Fetske 34, Saladzius 26, Silcott 15, Hylands 12, Scott 7, Dut 2, Meakin 1.